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Samaritan Counseling Center marks 25 yearscomment (0)

December 2, 2004

By Sondra Washington

While recovering from substance abuse, a Birmingham single mother became so depressed and worried about conflict in her work environment that she found herself contemplating suicide.

A friend who had overcome a difficult situation referred her to the Samaritan Counseling Center where she received help. Over a period of several years, the mother received the counseling she needed and is now living a healthy, productive life.

In a thank-you letter used with her permission, the woman stated, “Many of us don’t know a God of compassion or unconditional love. It is quite a revelation to come into the knowledge of not being condemned. You have made a difference in my life.”

Since 1979, Samaritan Counseling Center has helped countless people from all walks of life through a blend of psychological and spiritual counseling, education and consultation.

Recently, the center celebrated its 25th anniversary with an awards banquet and silent auction to benefit its client fee assistance fund.

During the program, awards were presented to longtime supporters of the center and its parent organization Baptist Health System, which began the program in its pastoral care department.

Kicking off the center’s first fund-raiser this year, Baptist Health System donated the lead gift of $25,000 to the Joe Boone Abbott Client Fee Assistance Fund.

The center also auctioned various trips, memberships, services, packages and other donated items to raise money for the center.

“We have an ongoing annual campaign,” said executive director Shirley Richards. “So far, we still have gifts coming in.”

A faith-based pastoral counseling center, Samaritan sees individuals, couples, families and groups regardless of their ability to pay, according to Richards. Last year, the center’s 12-person staff delivered 2,400 hours of service at four different locations in the greater Birmingham area.

“We serve a wide range of people with a wide range of problems,” said Richards. “We always have to find funding to bridge the gap between what the person can pay and what it costs to provide the service they receive.”

Despite their funding needs, counselors at the center feel a sense of calling to the services they provide, according to Richards.

“They are committed to our ministry as an expression of their own faith,” she said. “It is a gift and an honor to be able to do this. It’s like we are missionaries to the interior of people’s lives. “

Richards advises church leaders to use the center’s services to help meet the needs of their congregation.

“Generally, ministers don’t have enough time to give the kind of long-term care that people need or may not be trained for it,” Richards said. “Also, people need the confidentiality outside their normal circles and may not want to go to their pastor whom they already know.”

To contact the center, call 205-823-2410 or e-mail Richards at 12srichards@samaritancc.org.

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